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Will Oracle Double its Acquisition Spending Over Next 5 Years?

Oracle
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Oracle

Oracle President Charles Phillips said we're still in the "early innings" of tech consolidation, and that Oracle will probably spend twice as much over the next five years as it did over the last five.

Phillips made the comments on stage at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspenon Thursday. In his comments about possible acquisition targets, he implied that he's got his eye on more than software. "There's a lot more" Oracle could do in hardware beyond the recent $7.4 billion Sun Microsystems acquisition, he said.

Oracle issued a clarification of Phillips's comments Friday morning, saying that there is no specific annual or five-year acquisition budget and that Oracle is unlikely to actually spend "anything approaching" $70 billion over a five year period. "We will be opportunistic and, if market conditions warrant, we will buy additional companies that further our strategic goals and address our customers' needs," said spokeswoman Karen Tillman.

Oracle is an M&A trendsetter, so the comments are important for the entire tech industry.

Seven years ago, after the dot-com bust, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison kicked off a wave of tech M&A when he declared that IT departments would want to buy software in integrated bundles from giants, rather than buy piecemeal from smaller companies.

"We will be opportunistic and, if market conditions warrant, we will buy additional companies that further our strategic goals and address our customers' needs." -Oracle, Karen Tillman

Ellison backed that declaration with a hostile bid for application provider PeopleSoft, and went on to buy dozens of names including BEA Systems and Sun Microsystems. Rivals in the software industry stepped up their buying soon after: IBM made several purchases in middleware and analytics software. HP beefed up its enterprise software portfolio. And SAP (which had long shunned large acquisitions) bought Business Objects and Sybase.

Recent developments seem to back Phillips's assertion that the big guys in Silicon Valley are still spending. Cisco CEO John Chambers told me recently that he's still on the prowl for companies to buy — and Apple CEO Steve Jobs , who historically hasn't bought much, has recently shelled out for mapping and advertising companies.

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